An Eating Disorder Is a Compulsive Numbers Game

January 31, 2023 Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

Hello, my name is Obsessed with Metrics. I say this with snark, but I also genuinely mean it. A few months ago, when I wrote about my exercise addiction, I briefly touched on how metrics fuel this behavior. I count the number of steps I take. I count the number of miles I run. I count the number of stairs I climb. I count the number of minutes I exercise. I count the number of calories I burn. At times, I feel like a human calculator—ironic, since math has never been my strong suit. 

All of this counting interferes with my life, but I cannot seem to break the habit—nor do I even want to right now. I enjoy the rush too much to stop. I tally each movement with laser precision, courtesy of the mobile fitness tracker I am never without (another source of obsession). As unhealthy as I know this sounds, it also creates an intoxicating, powerful sense of achievement. An eating disorder is a compulsive numbers game, and I will be honest: It's hard to quit playing.

Why the Eating Disorder Numbers Game Is Such a Strong Compulsion

A numbers game operates on a value system—the higher a metric, the more it's worth. This basic premise fuels my exercise addiction. The further my distance, the quicker my pace, the steadier my calorie burn, and the longer my workout, the more value I can attribute to my own self-worth. That's how an eating disorder brain measures performance.

If I win the numbers game, I am successful. If I do not meet the benchmark, I am a failure. This rigid binary influences each action and muscle contraction. Since I cannot bear the possibility of failing, I refuse to cease moving. I am tired, but I will prove myself.

Otherwise, I will be left wondering, "Do I measure up?"

That is why I refer to an eating disorder as a compulsive numbers game. But here's the reality: If I allow it to continue, this pattern has no end, which makes winning an impossible feat. So even though I do not feel ready, it's time to stop calculating my worth in metrics. I need a new goal to strive for.

Taking Steps to End this Numbers Game in Eating Disorder Recovery

Does your eating disorder often feel like a compulsive numbers game that you can never seem to win? What actions are you taking to heal from this obsession with arbitrary, unreasonable metrics and reclaim your sense of intrinsic self-worth? Please share in the comment section below.  

APA Reference
Schurrer, M. (2023, January 31). An Eating Disorder Is a Compulsive Numbers Game, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer

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